How Music Facilitated Nationalism in the Past and

How Music Can Facilitate Nationalism Today


by Kelly Gawne



Music can influence human psychology and sociology to facilitate nationalism. “[T]he essential building blocks of national identity are undoubtedly cultural ones.”[1] This is true because a group of people’s shared cultural experiences, including music creation and appreciation, unify that group as a separate part of the larger world. The resulting sense of unity can make the members of the group desire the formation of a nation.

While a nation is being built, neutral songs can become connected with a group’s political ideas. These songs further the group’s identity and propel it forward toward the desire of nationhood. These formative songs are the focus of this paper. After a national identity is formed, members of that nation will express their national identity overtly in music by means of national anthems and songs. National anthems denote a successful nation, and are the end result of the process of nation-building.

Part I of this paper discusses national identity and its changeability, the properties of music, and music’s interplay with nationalism. Part II examines the connection of music and nationalism in case studies of individual countries. In the case studies, different properties of music, including lyrical content, harmony, melody, and rhythm, play varying roles in eliciting nationalist ideas. The case studies include: how Italy’s unification was promoted by opera music; how Hitler’s regime used martial music to unify Catholics and Protestants in Germany; how Serbian leaders used music to promote Serb national identity and distract the people while atrocities took place nearby; how Russian political leaders supported or denounced music depending on the music’s political implications; how the Irish used music to publicize their cause and desire for a unified Ireland; and how Czechoslovakian leaders encouraged musicians to write national music as they built their own new nation. 

The Conclusion will discuss how political leaders today can use music to bring people together because music has worked to unify individuals in the past. A musical program could be one part of a nation’s larger plan for promoting nationalism.


Part I. How Music Influences Nationalism


            In this section, the concepts of “state” and “nation” will be distinguished. Some of the case studies are about nations that are not yet states. Also, the terms “national identity” and “nationalism” will be defined. Second, the ability of national identity to change will be discussed. This is important because political leaders can influence national identity if it is not static. Third, the special properties of music that make it accessible to many people and therefore, especially good at promoting nationalism, will be discussed. Finally, the way that music and nationalism connect will be explored.


A. State vs. Nation, National Identity, and Nationalism


            A state is distinguishable from a nation. A state includes “public institutions, differentiated from, and autonomous of, other social institutions and exercising a monopoly of coercion and extraction within a given territory.”[2] These institutions are usually part of a government.[3]

By contrast, a nation “signifies a cultural and political bond, uniting in a single political community all who share [a] historic culture and homeland.”[4]A national identity is multi-dimensional.[5]  According to the scholar Anthony Smith:


“…the fundamental features of national identity [are] as follows: 1. [a] historic territory, or homeland; 2. common myths and historical memories; 3. a common, mass public culture; 4. common legal rights and duties for all members; 5. a common economy with territorial mobility for its members.”[6]


Therefore, Smith defines a nation “as a named human population sharing an historic territory, common myths and historical memories, a mass, public culture, a common economy and common legal rights and duties for all members.”[7] “[N]ational identity comprises both a political identity as well as a cultural one. This is significant because it means that any attempt to forge a national identity is also a political action with political consequences…”[8]

Nationalism is “an ideological movement for attaining and maintaining autonomy, unity and identity on behalf of a population deemed by some of its members to constitute an actual or potential ‘nation.’”[9] This paper is concerned with the role of music as part of a group’s national identity and their nationalist movement.


B. Changeability of National Identity and Nation-Building


A group’s national identity is multi-faceted, and different elements are present depending on which different groups the individuals participate in.[10] National identity is always changeable because individuals join and leave groups throughout life.[11] “[T]he self is composed of multiple identities and roles – familial, territorial, class, religious, ethnic and gender… each of these identities is based on social classifications that may be modified or even abolished.”[12] Groups differ in terms of their exclusivity and the demands the groups place on their members.[13] Also, within those groups, the individuals have both similarities and differences which are subject to change.[14]

            The changeability of national identity and nationalism means that conflict among groups within a nation may be overcome.[15] Even successful nations contain groups that have differences and disagreements, proving that a common ground may be reached where the nation’s members agree “to overlook the differences and view the similarities as essential.”[16]

The changeability of national identity means that nations can be built. Nation-building includes “state-building combined with national integration and mobilization; this too requires the formation of a national culture and political identity that clearly differentiates it from its neighbors.”[17] This paper focuses on music’s role in the forming of a national culture. 


            C. Properties of Music


Music is made up of sounds, and “sounds are always effects; effects of the clash, the impact and resistance, of the forces of nature.”[18] Since sound expresses both the present and suggests what will happen in the future, with sounds and music, “there is [an aura of indeterminateness and uncertainty – all conditions favorable to intense emotional stir.”[19] Sounds can express emotions directly.[20] “Sound can be “threatening, whining, soothing, depressing, fierce, [or] tender…”[21] Since the ideas and emotions represented in music are so accessible, music can be better at engaging more of the general population than other mediums of art.[22] Music’s accessibility makes it an especially useful medium for conveying nationalist ideas to a large population.


D. Music’s Interplay with Nationalism


            Music operates “‘as part of the political arena- not simply as one of its more trivial reflections.’”[23] “Since the mid-nineteenth century, a country’s music has become a political ideology by stressing national characteristics, appearing as a representative of the nation, and everywhere confirming the national principle.”[24] Powerful individuals in society are able to influence cultural production, which in turn influences the cultural preferences of the larger population, which eventually defines the nation.[25] Therefore, political elites can use music to influence the larger population. However, when the elites of a nation consciously seek to exercise such influence, they should not allow the population to know what they are doing “because national identity is… ‘conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship.’”[26] If questioned, the elites should only say that the shared culture is an “expression of an already existing unity.”[27]

Scholar Peter Stamtov argues that music can become connected to nationalism by interpretive activism.[28] In interpretive activism, audiences impose political meaning on art performances by displaying affiliation or disaffiliation with the performances.[29] The nationalist ideas in music may not be explicit.[30] Instead, the ideas emerge through an interaction among the piece of music, the context, and the individual who acts as the interpretive activist.[31] The interpretive activist can be a professional arts reviewer, a political activist, or a regular individual imposing his views on a peer group.[32]

Individuals can affiliate with a piece of music by attending the performance, engaging in applause, or discussing it with friends.[33] Individuals can disaffiliate by booing, walking out of a performance, or not attending at all.[34] Outside of attending a performance, individuals can affiliate with music by singing it, performing it themselves, or playing recordings of it. Conversely, individuals can disaffiliate with music by not doing so.








II. Case Studies


A. How Verdi’s Operas Helped To Unify Italy.


Italian opera furthered the unification of Italy because the opera promoted a shared Italian language and provided a forum for expressing Italian unity. The following case study shows that language and the lyrical content were significant in connecting the music to nationalist ideas. Also, the harmony of the voices in the singing of opera choruses was important because the unified voices symbolized a unified Italy.

            1. History

In the mid-1800s, the country today known as Italy was made up of many Italian states with different languages and cultures. In the 1840’s, Italians faced economic turmoil and increasingly became dissatisfied with the government.[35] More Italians began to believe that a change in the governmental regime would benefit their daily lives.[36] Many Italians supported unifying the Italian states into one country.[37] “In 1848, the discontent with the status quo and the desire for political change erupted in a series of revolutions that along with revolutions in other parts of Europe shook all the regimes in all Italian states.”[38]


2. Ernani & Italian Unification

            During this time, Guiseppe Verdi was a composer of some of the most widely performed Italian operas.[39] Verdi “believed wholeheartedly that each nation should cultivate its native music.”[40] Because of the nationalist ideas connected with his operas, Verdi has been called “one of the unifying forces in the life of a new nation.”[41]

Scholar Peter Stamtov argues that Verdi’s operas became linked to nationalism by interpretive activism.[42] For example, around 1844, a new and popular pope, Pius IX, had been elected.[43] The pope headed the Catholic Church, but also ruled the Italian Papal states during that time.[44] Many people hoped that Pope Pius IX would become the new leader of a unified Italian state.[45]

The political desire for unification became connected with Verdi’s opera Ernani, Stamtov notes.[46] In the finale of Ernani, Carlo Mango has just been elected Emperor of the Roman Empire.[47] Instead of punishing the people who plotted against him, he grants them pardons.[48] “In response, soloists and choirs burst into praise of the new emperor… In many performances, the name of the Pope (“Pio Nono”) was substituted for the original “Charlemange” in the phrase “a Carlomango Gloria ed onor” (glory and honor to Charlemange”).”[49] In this way, audiences connected Ernani to nationalist political ideas of unification.[50]





3. The Chorus, Nabucco & Unification

            The chorus was a new and important feature of opera that began in the 19th century.[51] The chorus represented  “‘the people’ as a mass – exactly what the drama of liberalism required – their voices organized, as only music could organize them, into sustained, unified, and commanding utterance that expressed their identity, independence, unity, and importance.”[52] Importantly, in the midst of political turmoil, the chorus could be used to produce “new images of order and legitimacy… [by] presenting images that defined nations from the bottom up, defined them by the rootedness of a people in their land.”[53]

In Verdi’s opera Nabucco, the chorus embodied group unity which the Italians related to. The song “Va pensiero” is about oppressed Hebrews longing for their homeland. In Nabucco, the chorus, rather than an individual, sings “Va pensiero,” which “sonically embod[ies] the political solidarity of a nation.”[54]  Italians could relate to that song because “they found a symbol of their own longing for reunification with Lombardy, which was occupied by Austria. The unison chorus… became the underground ‘national hymn.’”[55]


            B. Germany and Hitler’s Unification of Catholics & Protestants

Music has long been an integral aspect of German identity. Germans view the hymns of Martin Luther and others, the compositions of J. S. Bach, and German Christmas carols as being inherently German music.[56] In the early twentieth century, Adolf Hitler and his regime used the music of Bach, new religious music, and martial music to unify German Catholics and Protestants.[57] In the martial music, melody and rhythm were important in motivating the German soldiers and helped to create a feeling of unity among them.

            In the early 20th century, Germany was 59% Protestant and 40% Catholic.[58]  The two groups deeply distrusted each other.[59] During this time, Adolf Hitler came to power, and his challenge was to unify the Protestants and Catholics, and music was important in achieving that goal. Scholar Doris Bergen identifies three reasons why sacred music was an important part of German national identity:


“First, Germans used sacred music to express their self-image as a people of God and a Volk unified militarily at arms. Secondly, sacred music was a way to voice the concept of a nation that extended beyond its physical borders, its people allegedly rent asunder by cruel international forces. And finally, sacred music helped project the image of a Germany whose intense spiritual unity soared above historical divisions of religious confession.”[60]


Hitler’s regime needed the shared art of music to attempt to unify the Protestants and Catholics because of the distrust.[61] “[R]ivalries and hostilities ran deep; mutual suspicions shaped social, political, and economic interactions.”[62] The music of Bach was suggested to “transcend[] ‘all theological and church political conflict to reach a place untouched by the confessional and ideological struggles of our day.’”[63] Others pointed to nondenominational Christian marching songs as a way to unify the two groups.[64]

            While trying to unify the groups, Hitler’s regime attempted to eradicate Jewish words (i.e. hallelujah, Hosanna) and melodies from Protestant and Catholic music, however, “because sacred music was so deeply rooted in church as well as secular music traditions, attempts to tamper with it met with stubborn opposition.”[65] Many Germans simply ignored the changes and bans and continued to play the traditional songs as written with the Jewish words.[66] Recognizing this, the regime began to create new music that did not have Jewish words and melodies. “Most of the hymns they published in the 1930s and early 1940s featured ‘manly’ martial rhythms and lyrics about ‘blood fresh as the soil,’ ‘dead soldiers,’ ‘Germany’s Heil,’ ‘holy war,’ and the like.”[67]

            Songs with martial characteristics, which both Catholics and Protestants could enjoy, were also used at Hitler’s annual political rallies at Nuremberg. Hitler commissioned filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl to make movies about several of these rallies. In her movie, Tag Der Freiheit: Unsere Wehrmacht (“Day of Freedom: Our Armed Forces”), Riefenstahl captures a day in the life of Nazi soldiers as they prepared for the seventh Nuremburg rally.[68] From the fourth to the fifth minute of the movie, Riefenstahl shows troops marching and riding on horses while rousing marching music is played.[69] The sounds of trumpets and horns unify the group of soldiers as they all move to the same sounds. The rhythm and melody of the music create an upbeat aura of anticipation and excitement for the day’s activities. Hitler recognized the importance of music, and used music to play a role in unifying the German people.


C. Serbia, World War I, and Turbo Folk


Music and nationalism have been connected in Serbia both in its distant and recent past. In Serbia during World War I, folk music was a part of Serbian national identity. In the 1990’s, Milosevic’s regime used Turbo Folk music to distract the Serbian people from atrocities occurring in nearby Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. In doing so, lyrics played an important role in portraying a glamorous Serbian lifestyle. Turbo Folk music’s folk elements, the melodies and sometimes, the lyrics, unified the Serbian people by reminding them of their ethnic roots.


1. World War I & Tamo Daleko


            Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia in June of 1914 when Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a South Slav unionist.[70] As a result, Russian troops were mobilized to defend Serbia, an ally of Russia.[71] In turn, Germany, an ally of Austria-Hungary, declared war against Russia.[72]

            During the war, music played a role in Serbian national identity.[73] “Patriotic songs celebrating the trials, tribulations and victories Serbia experienced in these wars have taken on an almost sacred aura. These songs embody Serbian heroism, pride, aggression, stubbornness, victimization and belief in ultimate victory.”[74]

            One song that captures these features of Serbian music is “Tamo Daleko” (“Over there, far away”).[75] Tamo Daleko is about a father and son who fought for Serbia in World War I. They are defeated in battle and exiled on Corfu. They sing about their love and pride for their homeland, and about Serbia as being a cause worth sacrificing their lives for: “alone in my pride, I would shout out for joy, Long live Serbia” and “Over there, far away, where the white tulips are in flower [Serbia]/ There [Corfu] a son and his father, both give up their lives together.”[76] This song, among others, was explicitly connected to Serbian nationalist ideas.


2. Turmoil in the 1990’s & Turbo Folk

Serbia was part of Yugoslavia until 1992, when Yugoslavia broke apart. “With … the growing sense of isolation, popular music became important in furthering the cause of Serbian national identity, and as something to hold on to for a community that had lost its once privileged position both within Yugoslavia and in the international community.”[77]

Slobodan Milosevic ruled Serbia during the 1990’s. “War, chaos, isolation, national chauvinism, despair, and fear” characterized the situation in Serbia while Milosevic ruled. The Serbian media, however, portrayed a much different picture of Milosevic’s rule.[78] “[W]ealth, glamour, self-confidence, rhetorics of power and instant success, together with the cult of crime and violence, loose sexuality, and the joy of consuming… was the official picture of the times created by the media managers who worked for the Milosevic' regime.”[79]

            Music played a large role in creating this image.[80] During the 1990’s a new genre of music appeared in Serbia called Turbo Folk. Turbo Folk was extremely popular during the 1990’s – it was played in dance clubs and 24 hours a day on Serbian radio and television stations.[81] Turbo Folk music fused traditional Serbian folk song melodies with Turkish rhythms and western rock.[82] The Serbian folk song melodies reminded the listeners of their Serbian heritage. Also, the lyrics, with themes of glamour, wealth and power, were nationalist in that they elicited Serbian pride. “The singers of this music [were] sirens seducing Serbia in time of conflict, crisis and shortages.”[83] Some songs and lyrics were adapted from traditional Serbian folk songs, as was the Turbo Folk version of the song Tamo Daleko.[84]  Turbo Folk was used by the Milosevic regime to promote Serbian nationalism and distract the Serbian people from fear and the trouble in nearby Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.[85]


D. Russian Leaders’ Endorsement & Denunciation of Music


In Russia and the Soviet Union, leaders of the states used music to further their political agendas.  Tsar Nicholas I and Joseph Stalin would both sponsor operas and reward composers financially when the music satisfied their political agendas. Conversely, when music did not represent Stalin’s views, he had it denounced by the media. As this case study will show, lyrics, melodies, and harmonies could be connected with nationalist or anti-nationalist ideas.


1. Mikhail Glinka


Music and nationalism have been connected in Russia over the centuries. During the reign of Tsar Nicholas I (1825-1855), Mikhail Glinka was a well-respected Russian composer of nationalist operas. Glinka became well known in 1836 for his patriotic opera, A Life for the Tsar (also known as Ivan Susanin)[86] 

The Ivan Susanin opera was sponsored by the tsar.[87] Ivan Susanin, the hero of the play, is a peasant who defends Russia against Polish nobles who have invaded Russia. Susanin embodies the nation as a defender of Russia until the end of the opera, when the tsar himself takes the stage.[88] “… Russia as a nation and as a cause worth dying for is represented almost entirely by peasant characters, by rural Russian settings, and by Russian national culture in the form of folk and folklike melodies.”[89] The Polish enemy is portrayed “by their own national music, Polish dances like the krakowiak, mazurka, and polonaise…”[90]

Glinka used folk songs, but adapted them by “changing the harmonies, placing the song in different voices, or contriving effective countermelodies, all of which gave variety to repeated melodic material.”[91] Glinka’s use of melodies from Russian folk songs evoked feelings of Russian national identity for the Russian audience. Also, the theme and lyrics of Ivan Susanin, which involve fighting for Russia, promoted Russian nationalism.


2. Dmitri Shostakovich


In the 20th century, the political climate in Russia changed dramatically. The 1917 February Revolution led to Tsar Nicholas II being overthrown.[92]  Vladimir Lenin decided to return to Russia, and by the end of the year, he was elected as the head of the Soviet government.[93] After Lenin’s death in 1924, a struggle for power over the Soviet Union took place.[94] By the late 1920’s, Joseph Stalin rose to power.[95]

During Stalin’s time, the Soviet government became concerned with musical arts.[96] “[M]usic that was not topical and celebratory of the revolutionary ideology and its heroes and did not reflect the experience of the working classes through a ‘socialist realism’ that was accessible to them” was denounced as “formalist.”[97] In 1932, the Soviet Government created a Union of Soviet Composers, whose role “was to regulate all musical endeavors for its own narrow political ends.”[98] Soviet composers were required to obey exacting rules about the types of music they composed.[99] “The works had to be direct, easily understood, optimistic, and rousing – in a word, Socialist. The USC ruled that the use of folk song and dance was to be encouraged, while ‘modernism’ of any kind was banned.”[100] Those who produced acceptable compositions were “generously rewarded with money, dachas [(country estates)], and privileges.”[101]

Musical creations had to meet Stalin’s standards. Acceptable music was music that would be widely appreciated by peasants and aristocrats alike.[102] Stalin employed a member of the USC, Andrei Zhdanov, whose role was to evaluate musical compositions.[103]Zhdanov… determined the degree of wholesomeness and ‘Social Realism’ of new works, as well as investigating their creators’ political probity. Melodic simplicity and patriotic uplift, an above all optimism, became the yardsticks by which works of Soviet art were measured. ….”[104]

In the 1930-40s, Dmitri Shostakovich, born and educated in the Soviet Union, was one of several composers that were denounced as formalist.[105] Shostakovich’s music was avant garde, and differed from traditional Russian music in melody and tone.[106] His music is described as having “pungent, angular melodies with their altered tones, sudden bends, and turns.”[107] Some found the dissonant technique he used to be “disturbing.”[108] His style also differed in that he was influenced by Western music.[109]

Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth, although initially well received by audiences, was denounced in a Moscow newspaper as being formalist.[110] The title of the opinion piece was “Confusion Instead of Music.”[111] The melodies and tones were thought to be anti-nationalist, and the Soviet leaders disliked Shostakovich’s “musical portrayal of violence and sex.”[112] Since the Soviets controlled the media, this article likely represented the Soviet government’s opinion of the opera. By contrast, Shostakovich’s later composition, his Fifth Symphony, was approved by the regime “because of its optimistic outlook, easy communicativeness, and boisterous finale.”[113] The traditional Russian melodies were already part of Russian national identity and therefore, acceptable.


E. Ireland’s Rebel Music

For the Irish, music was widely used to express nationalism, especially in the nineteenth century. Lyrics played an important role in promoting the Irish rebellion against England and expressing the people’s desire for a unified Ireland. Traditional Irish melodies were also important for representing Irish national identity. The melodies were rousing and encouraged Irish men to bond together and fight for their country.


1. History


In the Act of Union in 1802, Ireland joined with Great Britain to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.[114] In the 1840’s, a Great Famine caused the deaths of one million Irish people, and another million Irish people emigrated. “[L]ife had to be reconstructed… and a growing political campaign advocated Home Rule or self-government.”[115] Still others wanted Ireland to be entirely independent from Great Britain. Charles Steward Parnell led the Irish Party, bringing together factions that agreed on Irish self government.[116] Parnell stopped leading the party in 1890, which caused the Irish Party to dissolve, but “the nationalist movement was set in motion.”[117]

In 1916 on Easter Monday, Irish rebels carried out a plan to take over important buildings in Dublin, an event known as the Easter Rising.[118] After the rebels “proclaimed Irish independence, some eighteen thousand British troops were brought in to put them down. Later, the British executed many of the rebel leaders, and it was their martyrdom that galvanized the struggle for Irish independence.”[119]

Ireland fought with Great Britain for independence in the Anglo-Irish War from 1919 to 1921.[120] Ireland won, but the result was a divided country, North Ireland being a small Protestant state and south Ireland, a larger Catholic state.[121]


2. The Gaelic League & Feis Chieol


In the late nineteenth century, the focus of some Irish people on nationalist political developments sparked others to focus on Irish cultural arts. An organization called the Gaelic League was created in 1893.[122]  The purpose of the League was to promote Irish values through the preservation and revival of Irish language, music, and dance.[123] “[T]raditional music, song, step dance, and participatory dance were considered essential recreations ‘to sweeten the pill’ of language learning and to bring people together into a community.”[124]

            The Gaelic League thought a recreation of ancient Gaelic festivals would promote Irish music, and in 1895, a Music Festival Association was created.[125] In 1897, a musical competition with prizes called the Feis Cheoil was organized by the MFA in Dublin “‘to promote the study and cultivation of Irish music.’”[126]


3. Irish Rebel Music


During the nineteenth century, Irish people were also making music in the context of other organizations. “[M]usic became a conduit for this growing sense of identity… not ony as a source of cultural regeneration but as a means of nourishing that impulse towards autonomy which is the distinctive feature of any nation oppressed...”[127]

Both Northern and Southern Irish people created rebel music. “In the South a subversive culture of religion, language, music and rebel songs, became established; “The Soldier’s Song” written by Peader Kearney in 1907, and sung, among others, in the lulls between the fighting at Easter 1916 became the national anthem.”[128]  The melody in “The Soldier’s Song” is exciting and hopeful. The lyrics are nationalist: “Soldiers are we/ Whose lives are pledged to Ireland/… No more our ancient sire land/ Shall shelter the despot or the slave/Tonight we man the gap of danger/ In Erin’s cause, come woe or weal/ ‘Mid cannon’s roar and rifle’s peal/ We’ll chant a soldier’s song.”[129]

In the North, a group called the Young Irelanders, whose goal was to have the Act of Union repealed, also used music to share their political views.[130] In 1842, Thomas Davis and Charles Duffy founded a weekly paper called The Nation.[131] The Nation included musical ballads and [i]n three years, Davis published more than fifty ballads and aspired to create a ‘Ballad History of Ireland.’”[132] In Davis’ first ballad, Lament for the Death of Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill, he laments the death of an Irish supporter who fought against Oliver Cromwell and the British:

“Did they dare, did they dare, to slay Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill?

Yes, they slew with poison him they feared to meet with steel.

May God wither up their hearts! May their blood cease to flow,

May they walk in living death, who poisoned Eoghan Ruadh.


Though it break my heart to hear, say again the bitter words.

From Derry, against Cromwell, he marched to measure swords:

But the weapon of the Sassanach met him on his way.

And he died at Cloch Uachtar, upon St. Leonard’s day.”[133]


Davis believed that music could be used to influence political opinions.[134] He “regarded traditional melodies as essential constituents of Irish nationhood and identity and agitated for their revival.”[135] “‘Music is the first faculty of the Irish,’ Thomas Davis wrote in 1841.”[136] Davis aspired to have a united Ireland, where the essence of being Irish was not based upon the sect the person was descended from, but simply upon residence in Ireland.[137]

In the 1840’s, Davis wrote “A Nation Once Again.” That song “became the anthem of the Nationalist Party… The song has entered the psyche of the country and has again acquired anthem-like status in contemporary Republican Belfast.”[138] The narrator of the song longs for a united Ireland and expresses “sentiments of heroic self-determination” as the lyrics show: “And Ireland long a province be/A nation once again” and “righteous men must make our land/A nation once again.” [139] The melody is rousing and optimistic, urging Irish men to bond together and fight for their country.



F. Czech Language & Music


The leaders of Czechoslovakia believed that music was an important part in building their national identity. Promoting the Czech language was important for creating a national identity since the Czechs had been under German rule and German was widely spoken. Folk melodies and harmonies were also used by composers to stimulate Czech national identity.

1. History


Czechoslovakia was founded as an independent country in 1918.[140] Prior to that, the area and people were under the control of Austria-Hungary.[141] German was the main language, and was the language of most theatre productions.[142] However, in the early 1860’s, Czech people began to desire a place for artistic expression in their own language.[143] The people contributed their own funds to build a theater, and a Provisional Theatre was built in 1862.[144] The Provisional Theatre would house Czech arts until a National Theater in Prague could be built.[145] The Provisional Theatre provided a location for Czech arts to flourish in the nineteenth century.[146]


2. Bedrich Smetana


Bedrich Smetana was one of the first nationalist Czech composers whose works were performed in the Provisional Theater. Smetana’s nationalism is shown by his “choice of national subjects for program music and operas, and in [his] generous use of folklike tunes and popular dance rhythms.”[147] Smetana’s works are said to have “evoked the great past of the country, its people, aroused their consciousness, [and] their desire for freedom and independence…”[148]

In January of 1866, Smetana’s first nationalist opera, The Brandenburgers in Bohemia, was performed in Czechoslovakia.[149] It was very successful, as evidenced by Smetana’s journal writings: “‘First night of the Brandenburgers. Crowded house. I was recalled nine times. Conducted myself.’ And again, ‘Second night of the Brandenburgers. The house packed and still greater success.’”[150] The Brandenburgers contained “symbolic sentences set to music: ‘Ay, what a magic doest thou freedom burn’ and ‘Whichever Czech would not music love?’”[151]

Smetana’s Bartered Bride and The Kiss also have nationalist elements of folk melodies.[152] The Czech people were “obsessed” by the Bartered Bride while it was produced at the Provisional Theatre.[153] Smetana used themes of romantic love, which were well received.[154] Smetana used “authentic folk music” for the opening chorus.[155] Smetana’s symphonic poem, My Country, was said to have “reassured the strong and encouraged the desperate.”[156]


3. Antonin Dvorak


Antonin Dvorak was another popular nationalist Czech composer of the nineteenth century. He incorporated Czech folk music into his compositions. “For example, the slow movements of Dvorak’s string quartet and Eb op. 51, and his Piano Quartet, Op. 81, are based on the melancholic folk ballad, the dumka. The shifting accents of the fiery Bohemian dance the furiant dominate the scherzo of the Sixth Symphony.”[157] Nationalist elements are also in Dvorak’s Slavonic Rhapsodies.[158] Life in rural Bohemia is the theme, at times peaceful, but at other times uncertain and suggestive of conflict.[159] Finally, in Dvorak’s symphony, From the New World, his patriotism is shown in this composition about his “native land without which Dvorak could not imagine his life and work.”[160]




III. Conclusion


A. Case Studies


The case studies show that music can be used to express national identity and facilitate nationalism. In the case studies, some properties of music, including lyrical content, harmony, melody, and rhythm, played stronger roles than others in eliciting nationalist feelings.

In Italian opera, language and the lyrical content were most important because the words facilitated a shared language, which led to separate states becoming a unified Italy. Also, in the singing of opera choruses, the harmony of the voices was important because the unified voices symbolized a unified Italy.

In Germany, Hitler’s regime used the lyrics of new religious music and martial music to unify German Catholics and Protestants. For the martial music, rhythm was important in motivating the German soldiers and helped to create a feeling of unity among them.

In Serbia, folk music was a part of Serbian national identity. In the 1990’s, Milosevic’s regime used Turbo Folk music to distract the Serbian people while atrocities occurred in nearby Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Lyrics played an important role in portraying a glamorous Serbian lifestyle which distracted people from the harsh reality of conflict. The folk elements of Turbo Folk music, lyrics, melodies, and harmonies, unified the people by reminding them of their ethnic roots.

In Russia, Tsar Nicholas II and Joseph Stalin used music to further their political agendas, Russian unity and socialism, respectively. When Stalin found music misaligned with his views, he had it denounced by the media. The modern melodies and harmonies that Shostakovich used in his music were criticized because they went against Stalin’s traditional political views.

For the Irish, music was widely used to express nationalism. Lyrics played an important role in promoting the Irish rebellion against England and expressing the people’s desire for a unified Ireland. Traditional Irish melodies were also considered important for representing Irish national identity. The melodies were rousing and encouraged Irish men to bond together and fight for their country.

Finally, the leaders of Czechoslovakia believed that music was an important part in building their national identity. Since the Czechs had been under German rule and German was widely spoken, the national leaders knew that promoting the Czech language was important. At the Provisional Theater, prizes were offered for the best musical compositions in the Czech language. Folk melodies and harmonies were also used by composers, which stimulated national identity.


B.     How Political Leaders & Musicians Can Use Music Today


As has been done in the past, political leaders can use musical arts to encourage group unity. A shared interest in music can create a common bond among people. Political leaders today could sponsor nationalist music, as Russian leaders did with money and gifts. Political leaders could also arrange musical competitions with prizes, which proved to be successful in both Ireland (Feis Choiel) and Czechoslovakia (Provisional Theatre). Political leaders could get people together at free concerts and consider involving the audience in singing the choruses of songs, since the chorus was so successful in portraying Italian unity.

In creating nationalist music, musicians can use what has worked in the past, as shown in these case studies. Lyrical content, harmony, melody, and rhythm can all be used to convey nationalist ideas. If possible, musicians should incorporate folk elements, as was successful with Irish and Czech music. If possible, the lyrics should be optimistic and suggest a happy future, as Turbo Folk fans in Serbia enjoyed those themes. Musicians should not adapt religious staples, since attempts to do so in Germany were largely ignored by the German people. Themes such as pride in one’s homeland and love are good universal concepts for lyrical content, as shown by Serbian music during World War I and Smetana’s compositions in Czechoslovakia.

[1] Andrew Wachtel, Making A Nation, Breaking a Nation: Literature and Cultural Politics in Yugoslavia 4 (Stanford University Press 1998).

[2] Anthony D. Smith, National Identity 14-15 (University of Nevada Press 1991)

[3] See id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 14.

[8] Id. at 99.

[9] Id. at 73.

[10] Wachtel, supra, at 2.

[11] Id.

[12] Smith, supra, at 4.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] See Paul R. Brass, Ethnicity and Nationalism 16 (Sage Publications 1991).

[16] Wachtel, supra, at 2.

[17] Smith, supra, at 122.

[18] John Dewey, Art As Experience 236 (Capricorn Books 1959)(1934).

[19] Id. at 236-238.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Susan McClary, Feminine Endings: Music, Gender & Sexuality 27 (University of Minnesota Press 1991).

[24] Theodor Adorno, Introduction to the Sociology of Music 155 (Seabury Press 1976).

[25] Wachtel, supra, at 3.

[26] Id.

[27] Id.

[28] Stamtov, Peter, Interpretive Activism and the Political Uses of Verdi’s Operas in the 1840’s, 67 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW 345 (2002).

[29] Id.

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

[32] Id.

[33] Id. at 356.

[34] Id. at 345.

[35] Id.

[36] Id.

[37] Id.

[38] Id.

[39] Id.

[40] Donald J. Grout & Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music 633-34 (W.W. Norton & Company 1996).

[41] David Kimbell, Italian Opera 618 (Cambridge University Press 1991).   

[42] Id.

[43] Id.

[44] Id.

[45] Id.

[46] Id.

[47] Id.

[48] Id.

[49] Id.

[50] Id.

[51] James Parakilas, Political Representation and the Chorus in Nineteenth-Century Opera, 16 NINETEENTH CENTURY MUSIC 181, 188 (Fall 1992).

[52] Id. at 184.

[53] Id. at 190.

[54] Id. at 189.

[55] Id.

[56] Doris L. Bergen, Hosanna or “Hilf, O Herr Uns”: National Identity, the German Christian Movement, and the ‘Dejudaization’ of Sacred Music in the Third Reich in MUSIC AND GERMAN NATIONAL IDENTITY 142 (Applegate, Celia and Potter, Pamela, Eds., University of Chicago Press 2002).

[57] Id.

[58] Id.

[59] Id.

[60] Id.

[61] Id. at 144.

[62] Id.

[63] Id. at 144-45.

[64] Id.

[65] Id. at 145.

[66] Id.

[67] Id. at 149.

[68] Tag Der Freiheit, (last visited May 10, 2007).

[69] Id.

[70] World War I, Wars & Battles, (last visited Apr. 17, 2007).

[71] World War I, Wars & Battles, (last visited Apr. 17, 2007).

[72] Id.

[73] Robert Hudson, Songs of Seduction: Popular Music and Serbian Nationalism, 37 PATTERNS OF PREJUDICE 157, 160 (2003).

[74] Id.

[75] Id.; The song Tamo Daleko can be heard at:

[76] Id.

[77] Hudson, supra at 169.

[78] Ivana Kronja, Politics, Nationalism, Music, and Popular Culture in 1990s Serbia, 16 SLOVO 5-6 (Spring 2004).

[79] Id.

[80] Id.

[81] Id.

[82] Hudson, supra at 172; A Turbo Folk song called Tamo Daleko can be heard at: (last visited May 11, 2007).

[83] Hudson, supra at 173.

[84] A Turbo Folk song called Tamo Daleko can be heard at: (last visited May 11, 2007).

[85] See Id.

[86] Grout, supra at 666.

[87] Id.

[88] Id.

[89] Id.

[90] Rey Longyear, Nineteenth-Century Romanticism in Music 159-160 (Prentice-Hall Inc. 1969).

[91] Id. at 160-161.

[92] History of Russia, (last visited Apr. 17, 2007).

[93] Id.

[94] Id.

[95] Id.

[96] Grout, supra at 701.

[97] Id.

[98] Fritz Spiegl, Musical Blunders and Other Off-Beat Curiosities 132 (Robson Books 1996).

[99] Id.

[100] Id.

[101] Id.

[102] Id.

[103] Id.

[104] Id. at 127-130.

[105] Id.

[106] James Bakst, A History of Russian-Soviet Music 306-07 (Dodd, Mead & Co. 1962).

[107] Id. at 307.

[108] Id.

[109] Id. at 308.

[110] Id.

[111] Id. at 313.

[112] Spiegel, supra at 130.

[113] Id.

[114] May McCann, Music and Politics in Ireland: The Specificity of the Folk Revival in Belfast, 4 BRITISH JOURNAL OF ETHNOMUSICOLOGY 51, 52 (1995).

[115] Dorothea Hast & Stan Scott, Music in Ireland 36 (Oxford University Press 2004).

[116] Id.

[117] Id.

[118] Id. at 39.

[119] Id.

[120] Id. at 62.

[121] Id.

[122] Id. at 57.

[123] Id.

[124] Id.

[125] Id. at 37.

[126] Id.

[127] Harry White, The Progress of Music In Ireland 18 (Four Courts Press 2005).

[128] McCann, supra, at 62.

[129] The Irish National Anthem, (last visited Apr. 27, 2007).

[130] Id. at 57.

[131] Id.

[132] Id.

[133] 108. Lament for the Death of Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill, (last visited Apr. 27, 2007).

[134] Harry White, Music and the Irish Literary Imagination in 3 Irish Musical Studies 216 (Irish Academic Press 1995).

[135] White, Progress, supra, at 64.

[136] Id.

[137] Id. at 59.

[138] McCann, supra, at 58.

[139] White, Progress, supra, at 64-65.

[140] Jiri Berkovec, The Praise of Music: Five Chapters on Czech Music And Musicians 174 (Orbis Prague 1975).

[141] Id.

[142] Rosa Newmarch, The Music of Czechoslovakia 61 (Oxford University Press 1942).

[143] See Id.

[144] Id. at 62.

[145] Id. at 61.

[146] See Id.

[147] Grout, supra, at 672-73.

[148] Berkovec, supra, at 71.

[149] Newmarch, supra, at 63-64.

[150] Id.

[151] Berkovec, supra, at 71-72.

[152] Grout, supra, at 673.

[153] Newmarch, supra, at 68.

[154] Id.

[155] Longyear, supra, at 168.

[156] Berkovec, supra, at 71.

[157] Grout, supra, at 672-73.

[158] Newmarch, supra, at 142.

[159] Id.

[160] Berkovec, supra, at 72-73.